Polling problems reported ahead of Indonesia’s crucial vote

Ulma Haryanto
Hundreds of Indonesians in Hong Kong protested on Sunday after being unable to vote when polling centers closed early

RIGHT TO VOTE. Thousands of Indonesians in Hong Kong patiently wait in line to cast their vote at Victoria Park on 6 July 2014. Photo by Answer Styannes/New Mandala

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Hong Kong-based Indonesians have complained of “mayhem” during the absentee voting process at Victoria Park on Sunday, raising doubts over how prepared the country’s General Election Commission (KPU) is for the world’s third largest democratic election.

While I was fortunate to be able to cast my vote, this was not the case for around 300-500 eligible voters,” Answer Styannes, a human rights worker in Hong Kong, wrote in New Mandala, an online publication by the Australian National University (ANU) College of Asia and the Pacific.

Indonesia’s presidential election will officially take place on Wednesday, July 9, but more than 2 million eligible overseas voters were expected to have cast their votes at 498 polling centers in 130 countries from June 4-6.

Coming after the country’s most divisive campaign to date, this election is expected to see higher turnouts. Indonesian embassies in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australia have all reported a high surge in voters.

Answer wrote that election organizers in Hong Kong closed down polling centers (TPS) by 5 pm on Sunday, claiming that authorities only approved the use of the park until then. This triggered a strong reaction from Indonesians who had been waiting for hours to vote. Answer said they “did not find this plausible.” 

“There have been many instances where activities in Victoria Park went on until 7 pm. The Indonesian migrant worker groups know this very well,” she wrote.

DISENFRANCHISED. These Indonesian workers, according to blogger Fera Nuraini, are protesting not being able to vote for Joko Widodo after voting centers closed early in Hong Kong. Photo courtesy of www.feranuraini.com Soon after, people started  to protest, demanding the polling centers be re-opened. Representatives of non-government organization MigrantCare said they negotiated with election organizers and managed to get an extra 15 minutes, which only allowed “a few” additional voters.

Indonesia blogger Fera Nuraini wrote a similar account of the incident in her blog

Furthermore, there were unconfirmed reports that one KPU commissioner remarked that polling stations would only be re-opened “only if the rest of the voters voted for number 1”, referring to the number assigned to the ticket of former general Prabowo Subianto and Hatta Rajasa. Their rivals, Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and running mate Jusuf Kalla, have been assigned the number 2.

“Rumors flew that the premature closing of the TPS was a deliberate ploy to sabotage the Jokowi vote. Some migrant workers also claimed that they were instructed by the election crews at the TPS to vote for Prabowo,” wrote Answer.

There were also reports that some ballots in Hong Kong only had Prabowo and Hatta on it, with the side for Jokowi and Kalla left blank.

Answer also commented on the limited number of polling stations in Hong Kong. There were only 13 set up for the  114,000 Indonesian registered voters in Hong Kong. By contrast, Singapore had 36 polling stations for around 108,000 registered voters.

MigrantCare said in a statement they would report the incident to Election Supervisory Body (Bawaslu), the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), and the Election Organizers Ethics Council (DKPP).

In March, the NGO already voiced concerns about KPU’s list of 2 million eligible overseas voters, as they deemed it unrepresentative of the actual condition. “Indonesian migrant workers abroad are currently estimated at 6.5 million people,” the organization said at the time.

Bawaslu Chairman Muhammad, however, on Sunday night denied the commotions in Victoria Park claiming that things were “generally smooth and went well.” The protest, he told state news agency Antara, happened because “the majority of Indonesian migrant workers came to the poll stations after 5 pm.” 

MigrantCare’s Wahyu Susilo denied that the voters showed up late. “They’ve all been queueing from the morning,” Wahyu told Rappler.

High alert over electoral fraud

Rika Theo, deputy project coordinator for MataMassa, an application developed to allow the public to participate in monitoring the election, warned of increased “hostility” in the next two days.

“[The situation] is very serious, increasingly precarious. There are more and more reports filed to MataMassa, mostly about black campaigns,” Rika told Rappler.

According to Rika, since the program was launched in May, MataMassa has received almost 300 reports of campaign violations, at least 200 of which have been verified. All reports can be viewed on their website www.matamassa.org.

One of the most recent, she said, happened during a Tarawih, an evening mass prayer session, in Kalideres, West Jakarta. “We received reports of an elected lawmaker campaigning against Jokowi because he’s Christian,” Rika continued.

“During fasting month, there are a lot of events where people gather, and this can be misused,” she added. “People can distribute money and claim that they were just giving out alms.”

MataMassa also received reports of people giving out IDR200,000 ($17) to university students who pledge their support for Prabowo.

The “quiet period” from July 6-8 where no campaigning is allowed, Rika said, is not quiet at all. It is where people should all be alert because “this is the only chance for each team to sway voters.”

Meanwhile, Jokowi’s supporters have been calling for a “2 Juta Relawan” (2 million volunteers) movement to supervise polling booths all over the country. People can register at http://2jutarelawan.com/ and download their mobile application to be used during vote counting in each polling stations. Other websites such as jokowiday.com also provide infographics on how to check ballots, official witness validity, voters eligibility, vote counts, and more. – Rappler.com


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